Geoff and I decided to go for a country walk the weekend before last instead of cycling, for a change. The walk was along the South Downs National Park – using a route from Fancy Free Walks – which we use quite a bit – starting from Washington.
The walk was lovely especially up by Chanctonbury Rings, a prehistoric hilltop fort – now a ring of beech trees. We arrived at the delightful little village of Steyning just in time for lunch, good timing. Steyning have none of the ubiquitous high street shops apart from the Co-op, they’re all independent shops and what a refreshing change that was!
We chose to eat at The Sussex Produce Company which is a very nice award-winning greengrocers and deli’, most items (if not all?) are locally sourced and some made on the premises. To the rear of the shop is their café.
The food isn’t cheap but hey, we’re in rural West Sussex. The interior is nicely laid out, with the produce all neatly displayed upon the shelves with biscuits, bread, jams, cider, cheese, wine – including some from the Wiston Estate which we’d sampled last month at Park House Hotel in Bepton – and more. The fruit and veg’ display outside looked great too, lovely and healthy. The strawberries made us laugh as they were very big and odd shapes. At the front of the shop was a large bright red tractor, sparkly clean – Helen would have loved it, whenever there’s a tractor around she has to sit on one to have a photo taken (she’s an adult, ahem 😉 ) – it was almost hidden amongst the tons of Belvoir bottles – I guess to stop people like Helen from sitting on it, although if any unattended child attempted to there would be smashed bottles everywhere – Geoff didn’t notice the tractor even though I told him where it was whilst we were eating and he still missed it on the way out.
The café which is at the rear of the deli’ has several tables with chairs from an old church, the ones with the hymn book holders (I think they said they were getting new ones soon) and the pew which we sat in came from a church too. Upon each table were a small bunch of flowers, of what I know not, they were quite unusual. On the walls were some paintings which were extremely expensive – and not particularly very good in my opinion but apparently in art there’s no right or wrong, or so someone told me;) The flooring had also come from a church, so a lot of recycled/reclaimed furniture put to good use.
Okay, on to the important bit, about the grub. There’s tons to choose from on the menu, pies, salads, sandwiches, burgers, something for everyone.
Geoff chose the steak & ale pie with mashed potatoes and red cabbage. Three of his favourite foods all on one plate, plus drink if you count the ale 😉 Speaking of ale he also had a pint of the local – which he said was pretty average, not bad, but not particularly good either – whilst I enjoyed a glass of prosecco.
Geoff’s enjoyed his pie of which he said : “usually the pie has to do all the work but on this occasion it was ably supported by the creamy mashed potato and the sweet red cabbage, served with jus”. :S The pie was in fact a Mud Pie which is made by Mud Foods in Midhurst, I recognised the little pastry cow shape on top of the pie. We buy a few of them at a time from the monthly Hampshire Farmers Market in Southsea and freeze them, they’re very nice and so too is their quiche – which I’m having this evening for my dinner.
I chose the ploughman’s lunch which is something I wouldn’t normally order. It made a nice change, half a pork pie – I’m not really a pork pie kinda gal, it’s more up Geoffrey’s street – fresh sliced bread, Brie, Sussex Charmer cheddar, piccalilli (what exactly is that?), pickled onions (enough vinegar in them to make me pull a funny face) a slice of ham and some roasted tomatoes. I enjoyed it, the cheddar was particularly nice.
Dessert time and we each shared two, the steamed Bam date sponge pudding with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream and the almond croissant bread & butter pudding, orange marmalade, served with vanilla custard. Both deserts were homemade.
The date sponge was similar to a sticky toffee pudding and was very tasty. Although it was fresh and spongy it definitely needed the ice cream and sauce.
The bread & butter pudding was our favourite although I must say it was a close contest. We would have liked a little more custard though. Other desserts available were a rich dark chocolate fondant served with vanilla ice cream made from local double cream, Sussex cheese board and ice creams again, made from local double cream.
We finished off the meal with a coffee each. The service was good and very friendly. Michael Bublé sang to us whilst we ate. The toilets were clean and had a natural air freshener, a beautiful bunch of lilies.
We were lucky to get a table as several were reserved – always a good sign – so it may be a good idea to book ahead if you’re thinking of visiting, especially on a weekend. They are also open on a Friday and Saturday evening. We recommend The Sussex Produce Company’s café and we wouldn’t hesitate on returning.
Ambience 7 – we were kind of sat at the back near the kitchen and loos, the main dining area would have been an 8
Living life, loving cake